You know how sometimes you can outgrow a childhood favorite movie? Or a toy? That usually doesn’t happen with filmmakers because, for the most part, they grow and mature right along with you; their tastes and subjects gaining deeper and more personal meaning. Kevin Smith, who spoke to an entire generation of slackers with his early View Askew films seems to have entered a delayed state of arrested development that looks a lot like mid-life crisis, or better yet, mid-career crisis. It’s been going on since that “Cop Out” disaster but reached what should have been rock bottom with “Tusk”, but Smith proves there are further levels to sink with “Yoga Hosers”, a film so unfunny and misjudged it would spell the end of just about any other filmmaker.
This new version of Smith is less about insighful characters dealing with real problems, and more about shock value. There’s probably an audience out there, perhaps even a significant one, that likes it when Smith makes a movie about a human walrus. Or in this case, a movie featuring evil Canadian Nazis made of bratwurst. Yeah, that’s right. Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn stars alongside Johnny Depp’s daugher Lily-Rose as Coleen M. and Coleen C., the two bored shop clerks last seen in “Tusk” working at the Eh-to-Zed mart. The disaffected teens are basically a fresher model of Randall and Dante from “Clerks”, except that Smith has them say “aboot” a lot.
Smith was always good at making little observations about life that he could find humor in, but it’s clear right away that he has nothing to say about these girls. So he dresses up the film in silly Instagram graphics and trades in the easiest jokes about Canada possible. Lots of “eh”, “aboot”, and “That’s so basic”, the latter being the girls’ favorite catchphrase. When not closing the store early so they can rock out with their band (Adam Brody is briefly funny as their 35-year-old drummer), the girls learn yoga from a strip mall instructor (Justin Long) who has a beef with Warner Bros. Is it a coincidence that Smith’s “Cop Out” was a Warner Bros. film? Probably not. He also takes time out for jokes wishing death upon film critics, perhaps recognizing the reviews for this one are going to be hella harsh.
“Yoga Hosers” is basically Smith’s idea of what a teen stoner comedy should look like, just as “Red State” was his idea of a gritty horror. But Smith isn’t particularly adept at making those kinds of movies, and his attempts at humor fall flat. Some of that is the script which leans heavy on the aforementioned Canada gags, while there’s also the problem of Smith’s editing. He allows Johnny Depp, back again as exaggerated French detective Guy Lapointe, way too much freedom, especially for a character that wasn’t clever in the last film. The character didn’t work at all in “Tusk”, and his added presence here isn’t welcome, either. The same can be said for Smith’s podcast buddy, Ralph Garman, who drones on and on as the head Nazi who speaks in movie impersonations such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Al Pacino. Gee, how current.
Meanwhile, the girls must fight off Nazi sausages filled with saurkraut, and the CGI bringing them to life is distractingly cheap. There used to be some charm in Smith’s meager special effects, especially in a film like “Dogma”, but “Yoga Hosers” isn’t good enough to get that kind of leeway. That said, it’s a pretty good launching pad for Harley Quinn and Lily-Rose who have great chemistry and show a knack for physical comedy. Some of their facial expressions, especially from Harley Quinn, get the film’s biggest laughs. It would be great to see these actresses reprise their roles in a better written movie free of genocidal meat products.
Unfortunately, Smith doesn’t seem to care enough what other people think, anymore. It’s perfectly okay that he’s making movies for himself at this point, and perhaps for those who will forgive him any horrible trespass. It’s just sad because Smith used to have a lot more to say, and in a way that brought people together. “Yoga Hosers” seems like Smith doing his best to drive audiences away once and for all.